DENVER -- Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a day after addressing AIPAC in Washington, DC alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, lamented the current low point in the United States' relationship with Israel and softly defended the ongoing negotiations between the U.S. and Iran.
"I think it's unfortunate that this became a partisan issue. The relationship between the US and Israel should never be partisan," Hickenlooper told FOX31 Denver during an interview Tuesday at his office. "Both parties have always stood steadfast in their support of Israel."
Hickenlooper, a Democrat who is close to the Obama White House and the pro-Israel lobby, did not hear Netanyahu's address to Congress Tuesday morning because he was flying back from Washington; but he said that he does not believe the proposed deal between the U.S. and Iran amounts to the kind of existential threat to Israel that its leader believes it to be.
"I can't believe that the United States would ever do anything to put Israel at risk," Hickenlooper said. "I think Netanyahu's concern is that our tolerance for risk might be higher than Israel's."
When asked which side was mostly to blame for politicizing the issue -- Netanyahu faces a tough reelection contest in just two weeks -- Hickenlooper said only that he hopes the tension between the two world leaders subsides soon, no matter what comes of the talks between Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.
"The relationship between Israel and the US has been so strong for so long...and I think ultimately that will come through again," Hickenlooper said.
During his remarks to AIPAC on Monday, Hickenlooper spoke about visiting Israel in 2013 and about opportunities for closer economic ties and future trade between Colorado and Israel, a hotbed for start-ups and a country that appears to be on the cusp of a natural gas boom.
DeGette skips Netanyahu speech, while rest of delegation attends
Congresswoman Diana DeGette, D-Denver, was among more than 50 Democratic lawmakers to miss Netanyahu's speech, although she claims it was due to a prior commitment to speak about her signature legislative agenda piece, a bipartisan bill to bring about new medical breakthroughs and cures.
Here are the reactions from Colorado's congressional delegation to Netanyahu's address:
Sen. Cory Gardner, (R) Colorado:
"Prime Minister Netanyahu gave an incredibly important address to the United States Congress today. He emphasized the threat that a nuclear Iran would pose to Israel and America, and made it clear that any deal that gives the Iranian regime a path to nuclear weapons is unacceptable. His clear-headed analysis of Iran as the world’s leading sponsor of terror dedicated to the destruction of Israel and America provides crucial context for ongoing negotiations. The United States must make the safety and security of our ally Israel a top priority of our foreign policy. We cannot allow the tentacles of terror the appearance of an opportunity to do harm to America and its allies."
Rep. Ken Buck, (R) Greeley:
"Prime Minister Netanyahu's address today came at critical time. The Prime Minister stated, 'the greatest danger facing our world is the marriage of militant Islam with nuclear weapons.' He exhibits clarity of thought that our commander in chief has failed to exhibit in his dealings with Iran. A nuclear Iran is unacceptable, and it is an existential threat to Israel. American leaders must not be shortsighted. There are evil actors on the international stage that eagerly desire the destruction of freedom-loving people around the world. For President Obama to negotiate with a regime that refers to America as the 'Great Satan' and organizes 'Death to America' rallies is utter nonsense. I thank Prime Minister Netanyahu -- and all government officials who attended and supported his address -- for casting politics aside and speaking truthfully about the very real threats facing the free world today."
Rep. Mike Coffman, (R) Aurora:
“I stand with Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu in our mutual fight to end the threat of a nuclear Iran,” said Mike Coffman, a Marine Corps combat veteran. “President Obama’s naïve negotiations with Tehran do nothing to strengthen regional and world security and would harm the interests of both the United States and our closest ally in the Middle East. In my four military deployments to the Middle East I have learned to never take the threat of Iran lightly. I fear the President is making that mistake in his negotiations. But after today’s address, you can rest assured Congress will not be rubber stamping this President’s policies toward Iran.”
Rep. Diana DeGette, (D) Denver:
"Prime Minister Netanyahu voiced well-known concerns about the Iranian nuclear program, and his comments on a potential negotiated deal to curtail that program deserve scrutiny. I will be looking to ensure the pending deal prevents nuclear proliferation, curtails regional tensions, and protects the Israeli state and people.
"As a longtime supporter of Israel and its special relationship with the United States, I am disappointed that the planning and timing of this speech have created a political storm and have obscured the greater issues at play. We should have serious discussions and pointed, respectful debate about the best way to achieve our national interests and further the American-Israeli relationship."